Children of God
Years ago I often thought I would love the idea of having kids of my own. But don’t worry. I enjoy being an uncle. I have two nieces and four nephews. Three of them live close by in Virginia Beach, so I get to do fun things with them occasionally. The other three live in California. For instance, every year after Christmas, I spend time with my 24 year old niece, whose birthday is Christmas day. We visit her favorite stores at the mall. We go to lunch. She tells me what’s new in her life. But I don’t get to spend a lot of time with her, so I talk to her mother, my sister, and I can find out what she’s up to. She’s a smart, sweet young lady, but I don’t have as much patience as her dad. I think he’s done a wonderful job through the years. I don’t think I’ll ever do better than that. Then I spend time with my nephews, age 9 and 11, and on two recent occasions I’ve taken them to Washington DC to visit some of the museums. I have a lot of fun with them. But I’m glad my mom came along on both trips. They’re great kids. They enjoy basketball and computer games and clever jokes. And on those trips I did all the driving, and I paid for the meals and train tickets. But I don’t know if I want to do that all the time. As much as I love them, after a while, it’s good to get a break from them too. I know I make a great uncle, but I’m not too sure about being a great dad. And after a long day with them, I get over the idea quickly of having my own kids.
In the second reading, John writes how God loves us so much that he sent us his son Jesus. Through Jesus, God has made us his children. We don’t know everything about God yet, but we do know we will see him as he is, and since it is he who made us, we will be like him. In the gospel, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, and we are the people, who are the sheep of his flock. A shepherd in Jesus’ time was not at all that impressive. But Jesus is not some ordinary shepherd. He knows each of his sheep by name, and they know him. And only a true shepherd would be willing to give up his own life to save his sheep. This he did when he embraced his suffering and death on a cross, so that we would be reconciled to God.
As we celebrate God’s presence among us today in the Bread and Wine that is transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus, we welcome our young people to the Eucharistic table for the first time. We are reminded of God’s desire to be close to us, as the Good Shepherd is close to his sheep. But even more amazing is that God gives himself as food and drink for us, that he might nourish us, that he might strengthen the life of God within us, that he might become one with us, as the food and drink we take become one with us. But as that food and drink is changed within us, so we are also changed to become more like Jesus whose Body and Blood we receive.
Our sharing in this sacred food accomplishes little if it does not change us, for we do not receive ordinary food and drink. We receive Jesus’ Body and Blood to nourish God’s spirit within us, and to keep us close to the Good Shepherd who loves and cares for us deeply. We are God’s children because God has chosen us. As the food and drink we take changes within us, may we be changed as well to become more like Jesus.